Navigating the New Orleans Heart with Mike Doussan May 31, 2019 10:18
Interview by Brett Hutchins: BrettOnBands.com
What does it mean to be New Orleans? The city’s magnetic pull will forever grip outsiders, but what’s it like to survive as a native son, steeped in a scene brimming with free thinkers and constant communal revelry?
For roots rocker Mike Doussan, it means finding purpose.
Raising a family and the suicide of his brother forced his hand in finding his, but through the mentorship of his drummer son August and his focused work on mental health, it’s obvious that this is a musician determined to make his work matter.
It’s a busy week for Doussan, with the release of his new record Yesterday’s Troubles and release parties at The Maple Leaf in New Orleans and Paradise Bar on Pensacola Beach. Luckily, he was able to squeeze us in to chat about his new focus, the necessity of honesty in songwriting, and the camaraderie of the New Orleans music scene.
Mike Doussan’s story is intrinsic to the human condition. There’s pain and pleasure, grit and grace, but much like the city of New Orleans and music itself, true beauty rises from chaos. His songs are proof.
When did you start playing and why?
Mike: I started playing guitar when I was 8. My dad played and I remember always loving when he plugged in and cranked up his Strat through his Peavy Stereo Chorus 212. One day I asked him to teach me and that was it. I never looked back. I remember the first lick he taught me was the signature lick from Derek and the Dominos “Layla.” I was hooked after that.
What was the a-ha moment of knowing you could make this a full-time gig?
Mike: I was 23 or 24 when I started getting out into the clubs and sitting in with bands around New Orleans. Eric Lindell was one of the cats I would sit in with and we became pretty close. We both lived in Algiers Point so it was easy for us to get together and jam, or walk the dogs, or hit the local bars for the happy hour drink specials and free mini tacos. One day he called me up to play an acoustic duo gig with him on a boat. I agreed and loaded up my guitars in his purple PT Cruiser to head to the gig. We ended up in the parking lot of the Empire boat launch, a long ways away from where I had imagined this gig would be, and when we arrived, he informed me we wouldn’t be needing the guitars.
At this point I was a little nervous, but went along without question. We boarded a shrimp boat and idled out into the bay under the late night sky. After hauling in the nets after the third drop, sorting through hundreds of shrimp, and a handful of beers, I asked Eric why he told me we had a gig only to take me shrimping. He said, “I took you out here to get you away from everything you know and tell you to quit your job and play music.” About 6 weeks later, I quit my job in construction and started booking my band full time.
Talk about the grind of the New Orleans music scene. It seems like there is a balance in the city between musical camaraderie and healthy competition for gigs.
Mike: I’ve never felt competition in the New Orleans scene. From day one I was welcomed by well-seasoned musicians to share their stages. I still feel that same camaraderie and I feel it’s my duty to extend that camaraderie to the younger cats coming up in the scene.
Compare being a songwriter to being a sideman. Is it easier to throw all of yourself out there when it’s stuff you’ve written?
Mike: I believe my passion for playing doesn’t discriminate between my own songs or someone else’s. Of course, I may have a stronger connection to something I’ve written, but I like to put all I have into everything I do.
With the new record, has it been a conscious effort to move to a more folky Americana style and if so what prompted that?
Mike: For my last two records, Sin or Salvation and Yesterday’s Troubles, I’ve made a conscious effort to let the songs be what they are. I’m not trying to fit in any genre. A lot of my writing comes out with a kind of folky feel to it, which I think is natural to a guy writing with an acoustic guitar, but I have so many different influences that are showcased on these last two records, you’d be hard pressed to fit it in a box.
What’s the secret to balancing family life with the rock and roll?
Being present. You have to be present for both the family and the music. It gets tough at times, but you can’t phone either of them in. They both deserve everything you have to offer. I couldn’t do it without my wife, Maggie, who has been so understanding and supportive of what’s demanded of me as a musician. And my kids are supportive too. It’s important to me to be able to show them that you can follow your dreams and do what you want to do to make a living.
What’s it like watching your son August grow as a drummer?
Mike: Watching August grow as a drummer has been a trip. He has such a natural, round pocket. Doug Belote, who is the drummer on Yesterday’s Troubles, compared him to Jim Keltner (Traveling Wilburys, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan.) It’s funny hear such high praise directed towards a 7 year old, but he backs it up behind the kit. He’ll be sitting in with us on the Paradise Inn Release Parties in Pensacola Beach.
If he only had one drummer he could listen to to learn from, who would it be?
Mike: He’s sleeping now and feel that I can’t answer that for him.
Whether it’s being so involved with August or your work with mental health after your brother’s suicide, it seems like you’ve tapped into the higher power of music. Was there a specific point when you realized your music had the potential to do something important?
Mike: It started before both August’s birth and my brother’s death. I remember hearing the Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker record and being blown away by the honesty in his songwriting. That record influenced some of the writing for Sin or Salvation. Over the years, I’ve tried to harness that brutally honest approach and hone my craft to reflect that. It just so happens that August was born and Brett died on the journey. Those experiences have definitely led to deeper thought and expression. The song has been such an important part of my therapy and I’m lucky to be able to express myself in such a universal art form. I know there are a lot of people out there suffering, and for some, a song might be the only thing they can relate to, so I try to include messages of hope in my music, and hope is what the theme of the new record is all about. Yesterday’s Troubles are gone.
When it comes to mental health, how does music help us?
Mike: Music can help us in so many ways! A song from our youth can remind us of good times, or certain people or places, and bring up happy memories. It can also help us grieve hardships or losses in our lives by allowing us to connect to a songwriter that has experienced similar pain. Being able to write songs that I can channel my experiences through and have them mean something to others is something I will forever be grateful for.
What unique challenges does the typical musician face in staying healthy mentally?
Mike: A lot of musicians, like most artists, face so many factors daily that can make it a struggle to stay mentally healthy. For one, the typical pay for a musician is pretty low. That alone can lead to a poor diet, less than adequate housing, lack of health insurance, etc. Being constantly in a bar scene can lead to increased alcohol consumption which is a well known depressant. It’s also common for drugs to run in the same circles as musicians.
There’s also the possibility of rejection that we face daily. A lot of gigs that you are basically forced to take to make ends meet are for crowds that could care less if you are there playing music or not. So you’re over there in the corner, playing your heart out, trying to make some sort of connection with just one person in the room and there’s not so much as a golf clap at the end of your songs. When you combine all of these factors with drugs and alcohol used as coping tools, it’s very easy for a musician’s mental health to deteriorate quickly.
Stream Mike Doussan's new album Yesterday's Troubles here:
Purchase Mike Doussan’s new record ‘Yesterday’s Troubles’ at MikeDoussanMusic.com starting Friday, May 31st.
Hog Days of Summer Will Feature North Mississippi Allstars & More May 23, 2019 10:11
Design by Yellow Hammer Creative
Press Release via Druids Charlity Club
Headlining the 3rd Annual Hog Days of Summer, Druids Charity Club pleased to introduce a band that probably needs no introduction around these parts: North Mississippi Allstars. A mainstay on the southern circuit and beyond for more than two decades, this marks their first return to Montgomery, AL since 2001.
The core of North Mississippi Allstars (NMAS) are brothers Cody (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals) and Luther (guitar and vocals) Dickinson; today they are joined by bassist Carl Dufresne. Founded in 1996, the venerable NMAS embody the longstanding blues tradition of multigenerational music craftsmanship, in their case having learned the magic from their father, the highly regarded Memphis-based musician and producer Jim Dickinson, and their community at large. "We have always identified with other second and third generation artists," says Cody and to be sure North Mississippi Allstars have long allied with the families of Hill Country icons like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough via countless barbeques, tours, collaborations, and good old-fashioned parties.
All of this is to say: this music wasn’t learned- it’s in their blood. Originating in the eponymously-named region in northern Mississippi, the Hill Country Blues sound is distinct from perhaps the more well-known product coming out of the neighboring Delta. Fueled by corn liquor and incubated in heat, it’s punctuated by a focus on percussion, relentless groove, and an underlining rhythmic trance delivered via humming electric guitar. Influential artists such as the electric guitar trendsetting ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell, the punchy and groovy R.L. Burnside, and the uber-hypnotic Kimbrough, all demonstrate the key ingredients of this foot-stomping blues sound through their own distinct styles.
It is true that NMAS is deeply steeped in American blues and roots tradition, but they have been increasingly exploring more modern electronic and programming influences, particularly on their last two records. As ever, their latest album, Prayer for Peace, sees the Allstars putting their indelible stamp on classic blues numbers and folk traditionals, including McDowell's classics "61 Highway" and "You Got To Move," while also further delving into some more modern takes such as the electronica they injected into R.L.’s “Long Haired Doney.”
"I think it's our responsibility to the community that brought us up to protect the repertoire," Luther says. "To keep the repertoire alive and vibrant. That's what folk music is about. It's an oral history of America. My dad and his friends, they learned from Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon and Will Shade and then taught those songs to us. It's important for us to write songs and experiment and do other things, but playing our community's music in a modern way is what Cody and I do best. I think it's what we were meant to do." True as always to the blues tradition, North Mississippi Allstars use the basic structures taught to them as the starting point for improvisation and contemporary interpretation, jumping off points for exploration.
Looking at life beyond completion of Prayer for Peace, Luther says: "Now it's time to hit the road. Get to work and spread the word. We recorded this one in the spirit of our twentieth anniversary. Now we're looking towards our twenty-fifth. Twenty years is alright but twenty-five is monumental." Cody shared a similar forward-looking sentiment "This is a new beginning for North Mississippi Allstars. This revitalizing cascade of creativity and explosion of music, it's just been incredible. And I feel like we're just getting started. There's a long beautiful road ahead of us. We're only just now hitting our stride." This set will truly be a special treat, both to the casual blues/roots/Americana music lover; and to those of us who have been watching this dynamic act flourish the past couple of decades.
Watch North Mississippi Allstars perform "Rollin 'n Tumblin" here:
Dale Watson and His Lone Stars
- Austin, Texas -
Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, carries on in the tradition of many before him, yet his sound is all his own. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson is one of the hardest working (and colorful!) entertainers today and is rapidly approaching legendary status. He is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, a country music maverick, and a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters out of the Lone Star State. Dale and his ace touring band, “His Lone Stars” are on an exalted list of acts today consistently playing ‘real’ country both live and in the studio.
Unhappy with existing labels, he created the term “Ameripolitan” to distinguish his brand of American roots music from the more pop-oriented sound coming out of Nashville. This style combines a unique blend of western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and outlaw country into the sound that you hear today. Dubbed "the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin', Lone Star beer drinkin', honky-tonk hellraiser" by The Austin Chronicle, Watson has shined on the late-night circuit (Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman), performed on NPR, and logged numerous performances on Austin City Limits. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year and has released somewhere north of 30 albums (we lost count).
His musical journey began right out of high school as he started playing clubs and local honky-tonks around Texas. In 1988, it led him to move to Los Angeles. He played in the house band at the legendary Palomino Club in Hollywood for a couple years and recorded some singles before moving to Nashville to write songs for a publishing company. Commercial country did not fit the fiercely independent songwriter, so Dale relocated to Austin, Texas where he got a record deal and began to really find himself as a songwriter and performer. His life has taken more twists and turns than the Rio Grande since then, and he rumbles into the shed today - firing on all cylinders - ready to sweep everything in his path along a journey into the very essence of good-time country music.
Watch Dale Watson perform "I Die When I Drink" here:
- Birmingham, Alabama (via Montgomery) -
Originally hailing from Montgomery, Stewart now calls Birmingham home. He'd been away from Alabama for a few years, living in Nashville while earning his stripes as a songwriter, frontman, and lead guitarist. He gained valuable perspective while away, but still, something kept drawing him down South. He'd grown up here, surrounded by the twang of classic country music and the stomp of rootsy rock & roll. Alabama was a complicated place, its history filled with dark characters and cultural clashes, but it was oddly compelling, too. It was home. Unable to resist the pull, Stewart returned to Birmingham. There, after a decade away, he rediscovered his muse: the Modern South, whose characters, complexities, open spaces, and strange beauty are all channeled into Stewart's full-length solo debut, County Seat, a guitar-fueled Americana record, caught somewhere between the worlds of country and electrified rock.
Stewart adds his own perspective to eternal themes of Life, whether it be the musings of a lonely man in his twilight years, the longing for the wonder and innocence of young boundless adulthood, or the realization and acceptance of one’s nebulous existence while confronting and coping with one’s own vices. Sure, there is a passionate yearning in his music, as he explores the mysteries and murkiness of the 21st century South, but an undercurrent of hope is always flowing beneath the surface, punctuated by familiar electrified crescendos and timeless pedal steel guitar righteousness. When Stewart is on stage you’ll perhaps feel the presence of an old friend who’s been away for a while…perhaps there’s something different in the air you can’t explain, but the feeling just feels like…home.
Watch Will Stewart's music video for "Sipsey" here:
Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Full Moon Bar-B-Que
James Beard Award winning chef Ryan Prewitt (Peche; New Orleans)
Mojo Hand BBQ
Elaine Cole Releases Debut Single "Blame It on the Roses" May 20, 2019 23:17
Elaine Cole recently debuted her first independent single, “Blame It on the Roses”. This sort-of love ballad, or tune of trial was written entirely by Elaine, and recorded with the acclaimed John Mailander (fiddle), Cory Walker (banjo), Jake Stargel (guitar); mastered by Austin Lee, all in their hometown of Nashville, TN.
Elaine Cole (born Rachel Paschket) began her musical career as a child, singing in church choirs and music camps in her hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. Shortly after moving to southern California as an adolescent, Elaine's vocal abilities recieved recognition in the forms of a Macy Award as well as an Outlook Award, both for best overall vocal performance, as a result of vigorous theater and vocal trainings.
After spending early high school years studying in a musical theater environment at OCHSA, Elaine took her musical knowledge and applied to her southern roots. This bred a rabid appreciation for bluegrass and roots music, prompting her to join The Stolen Faces, where she would recreate the vocal abilities of Donna Jean Godchaux in a touring Grateful Dead tribute.
From singing with Elizabeth Cooke, Allen Thompson, and Todd Snyder, to starting her own band with Bradley Rosen (The Stone Hollers), Elaine has followed her passion of delving into the Americana. Elaine released her first solo original effort, "Wait For Rain EP" in August 2017. She is now working towards her newest solo effort, "Blame It on the Roses", a single produced with the help of some friends.
Stream "Blame It on the Roses" here:
Circles Around The Sun Proves the Hype is Real in Atlanta May 9, 2019 19:50
Big Friendly Takeover Tour Kicks off Friday at Avondale Brewery May 8, 2019 12:15
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Three of Alabama's hottest rising acts will join forces at Birmingham's Avondale Brewing Company on Friday night. Winston Ramble, Little Raine Band, and Taylor Hunnicutt will kick off what is sure to be a special tour, which also includes stops in Asheville (NC), Atlanta (GA), Montgomery (AL), and Mobile (AL). These three bands are certainly no strangers to one another, as their roots run deep across the greater Birmingham area. Based on what we've seen in the past, we should expect numerous collaborations throughout all three sets.
This has been a busy year, to say the least, for all three of these bands thus far. Winston Ramble continues to draw impressive crowds across the southeast, while having recently completed multiple successful runs out to Colorado. Their most recent single, "1000 Miles," alludes to the band's increasingly busy tour schedule and is more than worthy of an addition to your latest playlist. Back in early March, Little Raine Band released Dreamwalker, their first full length album since 2016. As expected, they have been grinding across the southeast in support of the release, which is one of our favorites of 2019. You can check out a detailed review of the entire album by clicking here. Taylor Hunnicutt has been one of Birmingham's brightest rising stars in recent years, and she sure seems bound to break out in 2019. You simply can't look away when she starts singing, and her "supporting cast" is as strong as any. Click here to check out her latest feature on al.com.
As an added bonus, Friday night's show in Birmingham will feature an opening set from Atlanta's Bird Dog Jubilee. If you're planning on heading over to the brewery, you definitely don't want to miss these guys. If that wasn't enough, you can walk across the street to Saturn and catch LUTHI, The Pearl, and Dirty Lungs immediately after the music ends at the brewery. Long story short: Avondale is the place to be on Friday night.
We took a few minutes to chat with members of Winston Ramble and Little Raine Band to learn more about their vision for this tour. See below for a few quotes from the conversation. Click here to purchase your tickets to see all three bands on Friday night in Birmingham.
“There’s nothing quite like playing music on the road with people you love. We’re all close friends and love making music together, so this is kind of like a family vacation in a way.. We’ve thrown around this idea for a while now and it’s awesome to see it finally come into fruition. There’s really no telling what you could expect from this tour, we have some fun surprises in store, other than that we know it’s going to get rowdy!” - Davis Little of Little Raine Band
"This run has been a long time coming, and I know we're all excited to make it happen. We've been lucky enough to share the stage with each other many times The Avondale show was so much fun last year, and we had to take it on the road. If I could pick any bands to travel and play with, it'd be these two. We love the music these two bands make and love the people who make it. Expect a show full of a many genres, original music, re-imagined covers, and collaborations. It'll be a damn good time." - Justin Oliver of Winston Ramble
Check out the official promo video for the BFT tour here:
Universal Sigh Releases New Single "Snow Dunes" May 3, 2019 09:51
Athens, GA - Metamorphic rock band Universal Sigh released a new single "Snow Dunes" on Tuesday, April 30th. This upbeat track features lively guitars and reminiscent lyrics inspired by the might of nature and the wisdom of hindsight. It was recorded with producer Tomas Uribe in several studios around Atlanta, GA. "Snow Dunes" marks the first studio release from Universal Sigh in three years and is the initial of several releases on the horizon in 2019.
Universal Sigh maintains a busy touring schedule averaging over 100 shows per year and will celebrate the release of “Snow Dunes” with a headlining appearance at Aisle 5 in Atlanta, GA on May 3rd following the Shaky Knees Music Festival.
Additionally Universal Sigh curates and hosts their own 2-Day Music and Arts festival called “Sigh In July” in Athens GA. The multi-day event showcases national, regional, and local talent to inspire consciousness and foster musical community. The 5th Annual Sigh in July will take place at Live Wire Athens on July 26th & 27th.
- "We have had a lot of fun working in the studio over the past 6 months. Our band has toured non-stop for several years now, and it's been refreshing to take a step back from performing to focus on the studio process. "Snow Dunes" was recorded in two Atlanta area studios: Prana Studio in Lilburn and Emanant Studio in Ackworth. Our producer Tomas Uribe, has been an amazing guide throughout our journey. His input has been invaluable, and we have developed an endearing personal and professional relationship."
- "Tomas fronts an excellent band called Kilroy Kobra based in Atlanta. We had an overwhelming amount of unrecorded material to choose from for these sessions, but we opted to release "Snow Dunes" first for a couple of reasons. We feel it highlights different facets of our sound, and it has historically been one of our most played songs in the live setting."
- "We plan to release another single in July and intend to drop our sophomore album this fall. Nothing is set in stone though. Hopefully, we can get back into the studio this winter to start working on our next project if time allows."
- "The band is incredibly excited to get back on stage in Atlanta. We love Aisle 5 and the last time we played it was a sold-out new years eve show with Funk You. This time we invited our longtime friends and fellow Athenians Partials to open up the show. They are fantastic and we are working on some collaborations that I'm sure the audience will enjoy."
- "Additionally, we are going to do something on Friday that we've never done before. At 10:00 PM, directly before the music begins, we will kick off the festivities by screening a short film that features members of Universal Sigh, Partials, and fellow Athens, GA band The Orange Constant. The mini-documentary is titled "Homegrown" and focuses on our experience hosting Sigh in July, our annual music and arts festival. It was produced by Guilty Peach Productions along with some of our best friends. We've never done a film premiere before so come celebrate our single release this Friday and bring some popcorn."
Steam Universal Sigh's "Snow Dunes" here:
Official Bio: Universal Sigh
Universal Sigh is set for high gear in 2019 and beyond. Their unique “metamorphic rock” compositions are rooted in quintessential groove that delves into an epic, cinematic, psychedelic jazz journey. Their soulful melodies reflect peaks and valleys of emotion and their harmonious improv sparks fascination in their listeners. This year will be a very productive year for the band boasting several single debuts and the release of the band's second full-length album.
Based out of Athens, GA these southern rockers have been bringing the heat across the country since 2013. In the past 2 years, the band has shared the stage with Leftover Salmon, Papadosio, Twiddle, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, Aqueous, Naughty Professor, The Jauntee, Cycles and more. The quartet regularly tours between the southeast and Colorado and produce their annual Sigh in July Music & Arts Festival every summer.
The band name Universal Sigh signifies a common thread that links everyone to life – the breath. Music, like breath, provides connection, awareness, and brings you into the present moment. Each breath and song is a simple reminder that we are all connected and reliant on each other in this journey through life.
Nostalgia vs. the Now: 25 Years with The String Cheese Incident April 30, 2019 10:44
Photo by Dylan Langille: ontheDL Photography
Interview by Brett Hutchins: BrettOnBands.com
Ten years ago, The String Cheese Incident took a chance on me.
As naive senior at Florida State, the dread and uncertainty of post-graduation was met with one sure thing - my absolute need to be involved in music. Resumes flew out to damn near every record label, booking agency, and publicity firm in the country.
One returned the email.
A day after graduation, I made the trek from Tallahassee, FL to Boulder, CO for an internship at SCI Fidelity Records. I was quickly rocketed into a world gloriously foreign to me, where all are welcome and the most different of people and styles are free to come together. The music of the String Cheese Incident did for me what it has done for people around the world and even the band members themselves. It forged seemingly impossible connections through the simple act of being open to adventure.
Bassist Keith Moseley chats here about the band’s 25 years, the communal spirit behind the band and its fans, and how the city of New Orleans inspires the band in front of this week’s JazzFest after-parties. It’s a conversation that points to the immense ways that music can transcend time and boundaries of all kinds.
Congrats on the 25th anniversary. Do you feel old?
Keith: Every day. It’s a serious milestone to reflect on and live with the fact that we’ve been a band for 25 years. We’re beating the odds and all staying healthy. I feel like we are making the best music ever together, too. It’s a special feeling.
I’ve read a lot of interviews where you speak about staying in the moment. How do you keep focused on that when there is so much nostalgia in the air this year?
Keith: The moment on stage? Part of being present with the band is how much new material we’ve written and recorded in the last few years. It feels like the band is going through a renewed sense of growth. To execute those songs onstage, you really have to be mindful and present. There’s no auto-pilot when you’re playing brand new songs. You have to remain super engaged up there in trying to play them the best you can.
Your music has created life-changing memories for thousands of folks. How does the band avoid the pressure of feeling like they need to replicate past experiences for some of their veteran fans?
Keith: There is definitely some expectation of the band every time we hit the stage. Some of that results in pressure to live up to the past, but we view it more as a responsibility to our fans and our past than pressure. This band, the music we make, and this scene we curate is big and important, more so than any one of us. It’s showing up and playing your role in this bigger thing. It’s all encompassing in that way. Sometimes you get that liftoff where the whole physical experience can take on importance for people.
When you guys were playing ski bars in the beginning, was there ever any thought into how big this could be?
Keith: It was hard to see how big it could go. 25 years and traveling worldwide with this music is a big deal. It’s hard to imagine, although the connection was very real on a smaller scale. We did get to those points of playing music quickly in those small bars. It got magical quickly. Getting that feeling and knowing we’re doing something emotional and powerful is a unique experience. Getting into those moments of absence is a special place I like to get to whenever I can.
I’ve chatted about Cheese with strangers in as faraway lands as Thailand. The community truly is worldwide. What makes your fans so special?
Keith: Our fans in general are an open-minded adventurous spirit as a group. They’re open to our wild palate of music and diverse ideas. That’s the type of people I want to hang out with.
Are there things the guys do, either musically or otherwise, that surprise you even after all this time?
Keith: Musically, we’re so familiar with each other, but surprises do still happen. I feel really fortunate to play with such amazing and spirited fellows. They’re a great group and it’s always an adventure. Personally, it’s fun, too. We’ve all been friends for a long time. Travis starting a family was a big surprise. We didn’t see that coming. But as an example, that’s been an amazing growth experience for him and it’s brought a lot of joy to his playing.
How organic is the current writing process? I’d imagine it helps a ton having your own studio space.
Keith: The Sound Lab has really gotten our focus and writing in place. We can come directly off the road and everything’s already set up to go. It’s been super inspiring. The process of writing is different for everyone. Lots of times we get together and band mates bring in songs that are complete or nearly complete. It’s just a matter of how we are going to put our group touch on it. Other times, it’s a group writing process where we’ve got a jam or a groove we’ve played before and want to revisit to build into an actual song.
It’s nice to have a studio space where we can come together and not be on the clock. It sure beats paying tons of money to be put on deadlines and have songs put together in x-amount of time. It helps us to be able to spread out the process between the writing and then shift into rehearsal head space.
Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
How has family life and time passing in general affected the band’s songwriting?
Keith: Where you’re coming from in life is always going to have a big effect on your output when you’re writing. A lot of us are feeling mature in a lot of ways these days, with kids leaving home and moving on. Some of the guys have younger kids. Different chapters in your life affect songwriting in different ways. When there is a deeper well to draw from, it’s bound to yield positive results. That well gives you time to reflect and comment based on things you’ve seen. I’m excited about the material the band’s putting out. We’re still getting better and that alone is super exciting.
Are there any surprising lessons you’ve learned from music that you take into your everyday life?
Keith: Not many surprising, but lessons continue to reveal themselves, the most basic being that what you get out of it is a reflection of what you put into it. That remains true on so many levels.
What goes into preparations for shows these days with the weekend runs?
Keith: We’ll usually try to come up with a setlist before the run and pass that along via email to give everyone a chance to throw their input in. We’ll have a little time to prep on it and then we’ll rehearse and try to go over some of the stuff we haven’t hit in a long time or rehash the newer tunes. We have been rehearsing a lot though, which has been fun. There’s a lot of pre-planning, but there is always the chance we might ditch the setlist or call an audible here and there.
Does the time in between shows make it more difficult to build more momentum into the improve spaces?
Keith: That’s a continuing discussion with the band. Was it better when we were on the road playing five, six nights a week? The band certainly gets into a unique space when you’re doing intensive touring. Just by the virtue of all that time together, you get to a different space in the playing.
The flipside is that it can be a burnout being out for long stretches. Attacking things like we are right now gives us time to come in refreshed and looking forward to the gig, plus giving us rehearsal time at home. There are pros and cons of every way of doing these things.
The crowd comes in fresh and excited, as well.
Keith: Yeah, people are pumped to come to New Orleans. We had a big weekend in St. Louis after not being there in forever. It’s been a great run of shows this Spring, and I think we’re on a great trajectory.
I’ll be shooting over for those New Orleans shows. How will the shows with guests be structured? Full shows? Full sets? Just a few songs?
Keith: Just a few songs most likely.
What’s the communication like with these guests beforehand?
Keith: We’ll have a point person in the band assigned to each guest. They’ll reach out and get an idea of the tunes they can do, and then we’ll have some rehearsal with them day of show.
You guys have a pretty cool history with New Orleans all the way back to the early days. What makes New Orleans so special for the band?
Keith: We’ve all just been attracted to the vibe of the city and the musical richness of the city for a really long time. Before I had ever been to New Orleans, I was fan of its music. The Meters, the Neville Brothers, Dr. John.
We did some early gigs at the Maple Leaf mid to late 90s. It’s such a small room, but it was awesome soaking up the vibe. We’d see as many shows as we could see as well. I have great memories of seeing a late night Gatemouth Brown show. CJ Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco come to mind as well. So we get pumped just coming to New Orleans.
Stream SCI's 1997 Maple Leaf Show with 2019 featured guest Anders Osborne here:
One last question and it might be the big unanswerable, but what’s next for the band after this anniversary run?
Keith: More of the same in a way. We’re going to hit it hard this year. There’s still some unannounced shows on the horizon for the remainder of the calendar year we’ll bust out soon. We look forward to getting out some unreleased music we’ve been working on in the Lab and a few more tracks that are going to trickle out and perhaps package that as an album. We’re on a great path as far as recording and creating music, and playing some great destination venues. We’ll look forward to more of that.
Great. I appreciate the time, Keith. It’s impossible to overstate how important the band’s music has been for me. It truly changed the trajectory of my life.
Keith: Thanks so much. It’s happened that way for a lot of people. It’s been a huge influence on all of us, too. We’ve all met our best friends, wives, and all kinds of people through this community. Thanks for being a part of it. We appreciate you.
Ready for Festival Season: Catching up with SunSquabi April 28, 2019 18:51
Adam MacDougall of Circles Around the Sun: A Band Beyond Description April 24, 2019 13:58
Words by Josh Hettermann
Photo by ontheDL Photo
Not long into a conversation with Adam MacDougall, the keyboard aficionado who has played with The Black Crowes and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, he remarked, “This is without a doubt the most serendipitous band I’ve ever been in.” It takes a deeper understanding of Circles Around the Sun, the outfit MacDougall was referencing, to fully comprehend that statement.
The group, popularly referred to as CATS by fans and industry professionals alike, assembled in 2015 and recorded Interludes for the Dead, which was broadcasted at the set break of the 5 Grateful Dead 50th anniversary shows that year. Joined by his CRB bandmate Neal Casal and veteran musicians in bassist Dan Horne and drummer Mark Levy, MacDougall and the group recorded what he readily admitted, “Wasn’t really an album... but more a reflection on iconic Grateful Dead tunes that were danceable and fun.”
The response from the hundreds of thousands of fans both at the shows and those streaming at home was influential in the band’s decision to pursue further musical exploration together. Acknowledging this, MacDougall quipped, “So whenever everyone was sitting there packing their bongs or making cocktails or whatever at set break, we were strapped on to the back of those shows. It was huge.” After cutting their teeth with a few live performances in the following year, the foursome reconvened at Castaway 7 Studios in Ventura, CA in 2018 to record their sophomore album Let it Wander.
The record is not an enormous departure from Interludes for the Dead, but it most certainly displays the band’s growth as a cohesive unit and their desire to create a more original sound. If Interludes was a rhythmic dip in a tide pool, Let it Wander is a journey into the waves and depth of the ocean.
Touching on the serendipity that MacDougall referenced earlier, a notable track from the record is “A Song for Chuck,” which features a toast from the legendary Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, who records at the same studio. Chuck stopped by while Circles was laying down one of their rhythms for the new album and liked the sound, so studio head JP Hesser asked him if he wanted to come back and add his voice to the track’s intro. Chuck happily obliged. Despite whatever title for the track the band had in mind, “A Song for Chuck” just fit better. Such is the benefit of recording instrumentals.
Let it Wander was released to universal acclaim and has coincided with the band’s steady rise as a major player in the current live music scene. When speaking of this success, MacDougall credited the group’s potentially risky decision to open for the tour de force that is Greensky Bluegrass for a dozen shows in early 2019. “You don’t open shows to make money... but once we saw some of the venues we would be playing (with Greensky), like the Beacon in New York, we couldn’t turn it down.” A highlight of that stretch of shows, undoubtedly, was when Adam and CATS’ guitarist Neil Casal sat in with Greensky at the iconic Tabernacle in Atlanta.
The success of that stretch lead Circles Around the Sun to book their first major headlining tour, starting this Saturday in Austin at Antone’s Nightclub. While this two month tour will hit many of the similar Southeastern markets that the group played with Greensky, it also includes new markets, “Like Texas... which is scary!” It also includes a stop at the up and coming Aiken Bluegrass Festival in South Carolina, where they will join fellow Greensky tour opener Cris Jacobs Band as one of the only non-bluegrass bands on the lineup. MacDougall doesn’t see this as a challenge, though, stating, “If we can make people dance for a few hours, that’s all we really care about.”
Adam MacDougall has an enviable enthusiasm about being a part of this band. “I get to play with really great friends and great people. I’ve known Mark forever and Dan is an incredible bass player, and Neal and I have built a musical language for almost a decade now.” Circles Around the Sun is undoubtedly one of the hottest acts in the current live music scene. “This is my retirement plan,” said a laughing MacDougall. “I could easily sit back in an easy chair with this band for as long as people will have us.” He better get comfortable in that chair... Circles Around the Sun have only just begun to rise.
Check out Circles Around the Sun's "One for Chuck" here:
10 Reasons Not to Miss SweetWater 420 Festival April 18, 2019 01:33
1. Two nights of Widespread Panic. Need we say more?
- Let's face it. This festival is in the heart of Panic country, and there is not a more prime candidate to close out the festival on Saturday and Sunday night. The band's history in Atlanta is well documented, most recently completing a three-night New Year's run at The Fox Theatre that we're still trying to comprehend. Being back in Georgia always seems to bring out the best in the band, and if anyone understands the level of expectation for these four sets, it's these guys right here.
- In case you missed it, Panic's last 420 Fest performance fell on Sunday, April 23rd in 2017. The show kicked off in powerful fashion with "Disco" > "Arleen" and made for one of the hottest festival shows in recent years. I think it's safe to assume there will be much more where that came from this weekend.
2. Joe Russo's Almost Dead: There are tribute bands, and then there's JRAD.
- Prepare to hear the music of the Grateful Dead like you've never heard it before. If you've had a chance to catch this band before, you know to expect the unexpected. These guys use the Dead's catalog as a launching pad into another dimension, and there's no telling where they'll take a jam at any given moment. Friday night will be dominated by the two-and-a-half hour set from Joe Russo's Almost Dead.
- The all-star cast features Joe Russo (drums/vocals), Marco Benevento (keys/vocals), Tom Hamilton (guitar/vocals), Scott Metzger (guitar/vocals), and Dave Dreiwitz (bass/vocals).
3. Stay in tune with the jam scene's hottest rising acts.
- While the lineup is consistently diverse, you can always count on 420 Fest to feature several of the jam scene's hottest rising acts. Take a look at this year's lineup, and you'll see exactly what we mean.
- Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Billy Strings, Big Something, & Turkuaz are absolutely "can't miss acts" this year. There is a reason that you continue to see these names rise on festival billings each year. You can also find them packing out venues across the country, while releasing new, original material that we're all singing along with in no time.
- Surely you're familiar with the mad scientist known as Keller Williams. Have you heard about Grateful Grass though? This set is appropriately scheduled for 12:00 PM on Easter Sunday. Bring your bible, 'cause Keller's gonna take us all to church.
- Everyone Orchestra will feature a fully improvised set from members of Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Jane's Addition, Greensky Bluegrass, and more on Saturday at 2:30 PM.
4. This lineup offers a beautiful variety that any music fan can enjoy.
- It's a challenge to even begin keeping up with the amount of annual music festivals in 2019. While many of the these lineups are designed to cater to a specific fan base, such as jam bands or bluegrass, 420 Fest steps outside the box. While there's plenty of jam over the weekend, major national acts such as The Avett Brothers, Moon Taxi, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Rebelution, and Iration.
5. THE BEER: Who could forget about the beer?
- You'd be hard pressed to find a brewery with tastier options from top to bottom. This brewery's impact on the city of Atlanta, our beloved music scene, and the entire Southeast, really, can't be overstated.
- Prepare to see the following SweetWater brews across the festival 420 Pale Ale, IPA, 420 Strain G-13 IPA, 420 Strain Mango Kush Wheat Ale, Peach Love & Happiness, and Guide Beer: A Lager.
- Have you heard about the artist collaboration brews? This year you will find the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong's IPPPA, Iration's Already Gold, and Fruition's "Fruition's Fire."
- Take a break from the sun and stop by the SweetWater Experience Tent, a weekend-long craft beer centric event where you can taste your way through 25 unique styles of SweetWater beers. Enjoy presentations a wide variety of topics. We've included the schedule for the SweetWater experience below.
6. Sustainability: SweetWater 420 Fest's eco-friendly focus grows stronger each year.
- Did you know that 420 Fest started as an Earth Day celebration in 2005? Festival organizers continue to go the extra mile each year with so many ways you can contribute.
- Make sure to purchase your refillable Steelys cup to do your part and protect the environment this weekend.
- Make sure to stop by the Planet 420 Eco-Village, where the majority of environmental workers spend the weekend raising awareness for Mother Earth. Hands-on workshops engage attendees and educate them on how to become more eco-friendly in their day-to-day lives.
- The festival offers a heap of transportation options, such as MARTA and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which allow for eco-friendly choices to avoid the hassle of parking downtown.
- To date, 420 Fest has donated over $120,000 to various neighborhood organizations including CPNO, Park Pride, and Friends of Candler Park (where the festival was previously held).
7. You never know what you'll find in the artist + craft vendor market.
- There's more to SweetWater 420 Fest than just music and beer. Each year, dozens of artists and craft vendors from across the country are showcased at the 420 Fest Artist Market. You never know what you might stumble across amongst your artist village at a major music festival. Arrive a little early or maybe even take a break from the music and check out the entire festival grounds this year.
8. Lyrics & Laughter Stage will put a smile on your face.
- While the SweetWater Stage and 420 Strain Stage get the majority of the attention, one of our favorite elements of 420 Fest is the Lyrics & Laughter Stage, which is presented by Aisle 5. This stage hosts a mix of both local, up-and-coming bands, as well as a handful of nationally touring acts. We're especially excited for Cory Wong of Vulfpeck (Friday), SunSquabi (Saturday), Zach Deputy & The Yankees (Sunday), Hedonistas (Saturday), Flow Tribe (Friday), Travers Brothership (Friday), Voodoo Visionary (Sunday), and The Orange Constant (Sunday).
- You don't want to miss out on Joe Pettis and Andrew Michael either. These two stand up comedians will perform on each day in between various sets on the Lyrics & Laughter stage. Click here to check out the schedule.
9. Got a minute to give? Don't miss the 4:19 Auctions.
- The 420 Fest band charity auction will benefit each participating artists charity of choice. Participating artists include Widespread Panic (Tunes for Tots), The Avett Brothers (Press On), Joe Russo's Almost Dead (Atlanta Community Food Bank), Rebelution (Atlanta Music Project), Moon Taxi (We're Hear For You), Claypool Lennon Delirium (Atlanta Community Food Bank), Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (Music In The Park), SunSquabi (Can'd Aid Foundation), Billy Strings (Nicholas House), Cory Wong (Conscious Allience), BIG Something (Atlanta Music Project), Fruition (Atlanta Music Project), Pink Talking Fish (Positive Legacy), and Turkuaz (Positive Legacy)...just to name a few.
- Auction items include concert tickets, signed memorabilia, photos, meet & greets, and more. Mobile bidding began on April 16th and lasts through the end of the weekend. CLICK HERE to register for online bidding.
10. There's some serious after shows to choose from. Killer late night sets across the city.
- Not quite ready to call it a night after the headliner? No problem. The afterparties surrounding this year's festival are as strong as you'll find anywhere. Terminal West will host Ghost Light on Friday night and Billy Strings on Saturday. Aisle 5 will host Voodoo Visionary on Thursday, Higher Learning on Friday, SunSquabi on Saturday, and Knower + Nate Wood Four on Sunday. Additional afters shows we're keeping an eye on include Bird Dog Jubilee & Schema at Cotton Club (downstairs at the Tabernacle) on Friday and Runaway Gin "Make Phish Evil Again" at The Loft on Friday.
Here's a quick video recap from the 2018 festival:
Check out the full weekend schedule and map out your weekend below!
Year Two of Ghost Light: An Interview with Tom Hamilton April 16, 2019 13:47
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photo by Donna Winchester: DonnasPics
In preparation for Ghost Light's upcoming run through the southeast, we recently sat down with guitarist / vocalist Tom Hamilton to learn more about what what we can expect from the band in year two, their recent album release, and much more. With scheduled performances in Nashville (4/16), Asheville (4/17), Charleston (4/18), Atlanta (4/19), and Charlotte (4/20), southern jam fans have plenty of options. The tour continues on April 24th at Zydeco in Birmingham, and you can enter to win a pair of tickets by sharing this interview from the Live & Listen Facebook page. See below for our full conversation with Tom, and make sure you don't miss out on this run!
Let's start off by talking about your personal journey. You've toured the country and been involved with a number of projects. How would you describe the journey thus far?
Tom: Yeah man. It's been a long go, I guess. I started playing at bars when I was twelve, and I just turned forty. That's a good amount of time. It's funny. Starting that early, there was never really an option. There was no "plan B," so to speak. This is just what you do, because you love to play music. Starting in middle school, I was a student with a part time job. On the weekends, I played concerts. It's always been like that. Up until about four years ago, I always had a job as well. It's something I did because I loved to do it.
With my first band, Brothers Past, that was a college experience. I lived with a bunch of dudes. It was like living in a frat house. None of us knew what the fuck we were doing...with any of it. That was a van full of 21 to 24 year old kids with no internet or iPhone. We had an atlas and a van. It was just like, "Ok...I guess we're gonna drive to fuckin' Cleveland today!" That kind of fell apart unfortunately, or I guess fortunately, because I'm ok with where I am now. I love being in a band. I've always enjoyed that comradery and the hang in general. It's something I've always been super into.
Clearly. Things have obviously come a long way since then. Joe Russo's Almost Dead has really taken off. I'm sure that's been a bit of a game changer for you personally. How much have things changed since then?
Tom: Hmm...I don't think things have changed personally. You're talking to me right now. I'm in Columbus, Ohio at a 300 person venue that I've played a bunch of times over the course of my life. I've been on the road for four weeks. I'm in a van with five other people. This could be April 11th 2019. This could also be April 11th 2001. There's not that much of a fucking difference.
The JRAD thing has been amazing. You're right. It's provided so many opportunities and has made it more feasible, or maybe more comfortable, to do what I'm doing right now. I'm still doing the same shit though. I still have the same goals. I started Ghost Light last year, and fortunately, my experience over the years and the entire organization has allowed us to grow a lot in our first year of existence. It hasn't changed my goals, which are to be in a band with a group of people that is based around original music.
That's what I like to do. I like to make interesting records. I feel like I've stuck to my guns, you know? When I was a kid, in my mid-twenties, someone asked me to take a gig with this band that just wasn't my cup of tea. It wouldn't have been something that I believed in and enjoyed. I would have just done it for the money. I turned it down, and at the time, I was fucking poor. I had been living on Joe Russo's couch for the better part of four years. I had changed my residence to a couch in The Disco Biscuits' studio in Philadelphia. I was sleeping on that couch or in my car, so it's not like I was in a position to be picky about gigs. I didn't want to just do something for the money. My buddy thought I was crazy. I told him the only gig I'd ever consider doing that wasn't my music was something related to the Grateful Dead. That's how I started listening to and playing music.
So when the JRAD thing came together, I was all about it. I love the Grateful Dead. That music is a part of my DNA and a part of my existence. I've been lucky that I've been able to get to this point. I'm not fucking Bono or anything. I'm just a working musician, but I'm able to make a living doing it. I can look in the mirror everyday because I got here doing what I wanted to do. I didn't have to take a bunch of bullshit gigs that I didn't believe in, and there's a small sense of satisfaction with that.
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
I can imagine so. So more specifically, Ghost Light is entering year two now. You guys have covered a lot of ground thus far. Packing out venues from day one. How has this experience been for you thus far, and what stands out the most when looking back on year one?
Tom: Oh man. It's been really interesting. The response has been crazy...and heartwarming. It's really nice that people are taking a chance on coming out and seeing this band. I feel like most of the reaction has been very positive. Those people seem to enjoy it and are likely to come back again. That's a nice feeling, because there's a lot of stock in the tribute thing right now. It's nice to know that people are still open minded enough to come check out a new original band that isn't playing Grateful Dead or Phish tunes.
That's gotta be encouraging, especially considering that this is a brand new band performing new original material. A lot of people are coming out and giving you guys a chance without having a whole lot of familiarity with the band's catalog.
Tom: Absolutely. I'm really proud of our management team. They've done an amazing job getting our live material out there into the ether and consciousness of the listener. Whether it's through live recording on Archive.org or video clips, it's been great to see the positive reaction. People are willing to pay their hard earned money to see us play. There's only so many people and only so much money people have to spend. When someone chooses to spend that time and money on us, it's a pretty special feeling.
It's been about three weeks since the release of the band's debut album, Best Kept Secrets. The band ultimately decided to release two singles prior to the full album release. What do you feel are some of the positives and negatives of releasing a new album in the modern digital era?
Tom: Honestly, I think it's all positives. You're putting out an album. You create a piece of art, that is ideally something that really matters. It's part of being a creative person. I've never taken that lightly. I love albums, but I do realize that, in some ways, it is the less desired form of consumption. That doesn't mean you stop cutting albums though. There are plenty of people that still appreciate it. So yeah, I think it's all positives man. I look at as a piece of art, a statement, and piece of yourself. It's a very important landmark in your life. I look back on my life and career thus far, and the albums reflect my experiences. They're great chapters. It's a really exciting thing for me.
Absolutely. I'm sitting here looking at Spotify right now. The first single you released was "Best Kept Secrets," and it's already sitting with 72,000+ streams. The various streaming networks certainly give you the ability to reach a wide audience quickly, which is valuable.
Tom: Yeah...it's all good man. Even if people don't like it, I'm cool with it. As long as it's out there.
You mentioned that you're a few weeks in to a three month tour across the country. What habits and patterns have you developed over the years to keep a sound mind and body while living on the road?
Tom: Oh man. That's a great question. I try not to take anything too personally. We're out here, and we have a mission. We're out here to make this music and present ourselves to the masses. Personally, I just try to keep my eye on the ball. Obviously, the hang is important. Having fun is important. At the end of the day, I try to keep my head on straight. Be conscious of what the goal is. There are days off, and someone might want to go for a hike. Maybe it's best for me (and best for the show) if I just chill and recharge the batteries. Maybe going for a hike is the best thing another day. Being self aware and always trying to do what's best for the three hours you have to put everything out on stage, you know?
That makes sense. I know that you take a lot of pride in keeping things fresh and putting on a unique show every night. How does each set play out with preparation vs. improvisation?
Tom: It's one of my favorite parts of the process. We don't ever have a setlist. We have a song list, maybe eight songs, that we know we want to play. We just go out there, play, and figure it out as the show unfolds. As we're walking on stage, we'll decide on a starting point. That's about the extent of the planning. Whatever happens happens. We try to have strong communication on stage, and if someone brings the band to a certain song, then that's where we go. We get there, play that tune, and keep moving.
Photo by Donna Winchester: DonnasPics
What is the band's approach towards covers? Is there much focus on keeping a fresh rotation?
Tom: Here and there. Personally, I don't care that much about it. I get my fill playing covers with JRAD. With Ghost Light, we try to throw in some covers to keep things fresh. I try not to give too much credence to that shit. A lot of the blogs out there focus on when a band plays a certain cover. Why not give more coverage to their original music, you know? (laughs). Personally, I try not to put too much weight into the cover thing. We have some cool ones on the list that are certainly outside the box. We do an 80's Kinks song and a Shins tune. Those aren't covers that a lot of people in our scene are going to expect.
I like that approach. It's always refreshing to hear a cover that hasn't been done a million times.
Tom: Yeah man. We like to try some different things and throw in a few deep cuts.
Before we wrap things up, I was curious to know how you're balancing things out between JRAD and Ghost Light. How do you see the calendar playing out for the rest of 2019?
Tom: Honestly, balance isn't really a luxury that I have. JRAD does 40 shows a year, and that's that. Ghost Light is probably going to do 80 to 100. That's what you have to do to grow a band and build something new.
That's almost half the year already.
Tom: Yeah...it's a lot of fucking time (laughs). To quote The Godfather Pt. 2, "this is the business we have chosen." I don't know man. I've just always tried to work as hard as I can. Put your head down, dig in, and do the job. Good things will happen. They might not happen right when you want them to. I would have rather had this kind of success when I was in my twenties, and not have to wait 'til my late thirties, but it still came. I believe it's because I work very hard. I think that's a truth that anyone would try to deny. It is what it is.
Balance is something I'll worry about in a few years. Maybe when I get to fifty, I'll try to find some balance. At the moment, I love the JRAD thing so much. I love the hang. I love that music. With Ghost Light, we're building something here that people are reacting to. I'm responsible for my bandmates as much as they're responsible for me. I need to work as hard as I can to make sure that their careers are as successful as mine, if not better. There's a lot that needs to happen, but balance isn't really a part of it for me.
There's a time and place for everything. It's been a pleasure catching up with you. I really enjoyed interviewing the entire band back in December, but I wanted to make sure we covered some different topics today.
Second Annual SandJam Brings Massive Lineup to Panama City March 28, 2019 23:08
Press Release via SandJam.com
“We are beyond excited about these headliners,” said SandJam Executive Producer Rendy Lovelady. “Kings of Leon and Third Eye Blind are absolutely huge, and Young The Giant looks like they’ll have their first #1 single when the Festival rolls around.”
Blurring Traditions and Definitions with Billy Strings March 21, 2019 11:34
Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands
Billy Strings sees you on your phone at his show. And he’s about to make you feel weird about it. Coming off the heels of a monster week at Austin’s SXSW festival, the progressive bluegrass guitarist extraordinaire took a breather before his shows at Pensacola’s Vinyl Music Hall and Suwannee Spring Reunion to chat about his endless touring, how he handles rough crowds, and his band’s embrace of the unknown.
Though Billy’s fearless guitar playing boggles minds on its own, he has locked in a unit of mandolin, upright bass, and banjo that is committed to each other and their crowds in a special way. There’s purposeful playing here, but more importantly, there’s a whole lot of fun - the type of fun that forces you to look at strangers to confirm that yes, we all just witnessed that together. Do not miss this show when it comes to town.
You were immediately surrounded by bluegrass upon birth, but do you think it would have found you if not for your family?
Billy: I wonder. That’s a great question. You could say it’s 50/50. There’s a lot of people born when I was in 1992 that have no idea what the hell bluegrass is. When I think about it, I am grateful to my father for showing me the music. I attribute it to my parents’ influence.
And you still play with him a decent amount, don’t you?
Billy: Absolutely. It’s because of him that I’m out here doing this. I don’t think I would’ve found this bluegrass, at least not to the degree that I’ve fallen in love with it.
Was there ever any pressure in being labeled a protege?
Billy: No. Never. In fact, my parents never pushed me either way. It was more like I wanted to play because my dad was so cool.
Looking at your writing, there’s a lot of darkness in your lyrics, but glimmers of hope shine through. Where does that hope come from?
Billy: Man, that’s a good question, too. Waking up everyday and seeing the sun. Seeing my friends, and hoping for the best. Obviously, you can plan for the worst. It’s positivity. I got a lot of negativity, too, with what I write about. I write about poverty and substance abuse. It’s where I grew up - Small Town America. I write about little tiny towns with little tiny high schools, where kids are snorting pills off their desks.
That authenticity comes through. There’s also an anti-authoritarian, almost us vs. them vibe to a lot of your lyrics and the music backs it up. Where does that sort of writing come from in songs like “On the Line” and “Dealing With Despair”?
Billy: I don’t think of myself as being separate from animals. It is us vs. them, them being people who are in charge and people who are raping the planet. Government and mines and money, and all this fake bullshit instead of what’s really here on a beautiful planet that we’re all living on together. I have strong feelings about the direction of humanity.
As you’re reaching more people, do you find that what you are doing is more purposeful? It sounds like you are on a mission to spread that positivity. Is that on purpose?
Billy: Absolutely. I see how music affects people. They come out to our shows, have a good time with their friends, and smile. That’s important for a lot people who work all week - to just let go. It’s important for me too. When I look out and see somebody get lost in the music and it looks like they’re having a blissful experience, that’s the greatest compliment anyone could ever give me. That’s what satisfies me in a way, knowing that I am spreading positive energy and light.
How much of that energy in the crowd affects you guys on stage?
Billy: 110%. I sometimes think of it that I am only as good as the audience. I can only play as well as the audience can play that night. If people are really into the music and interested in what we’re doing, I can and will play my best. The more that people are into it, the better I play.
How do you power through it when the crowd isn’t as engaged?
Billy: That’s part of being a pro. You have to face those days. There are ups and downs. There are days where you’re playing a nice arena and the next day you’re going to be explaining to some drunk dude why he can’t play your guitar during setbreak.
That’s really happened?
Billy: Oh yeah. Or the harmonica guy - why he can’t come up and play with you. Sorry man, but no.
How do you keep up with the number of shows you’re doing with how physical you are up on stage? It has to take its toll.
Billy: I’m glad someone noticed! I was worried that nobody cared about my well-being. No man, I’m really lazy now that I have so many gigs. Whenever I’m not on stage, I just want to relax and totally zen out as much as I can because I give all my energy to the tour and performances. Sometimes, I stay home from the carnival just so I can relax.
Paul Hoffman from Greensky Bluegrass joked that you never turn down gigs. Do you?
Billy: Ha! Never! No, I don’t have much to do these days with that part of it. I’ve released all control onto my team. Sometimes, I’ll say, hey we really want to do this gig or do we really have to do this gig, depending on what it is.
Do you find any limitations with the current acoustic format as far as sounds you might want to be making but can’t because of the instrumentation?
Billy: These are good questions. Good job. Maybe a little bit. I’m always hoping for this bigger sound, but it is just us four up there. So maybe sometimes if I’m up on stage, I’m just dreaming about this big sound, but it’s just us four up there going “plinky plinky plink”. Maybe I’m just pretending like we have a big sound and trying to come across that way. I do love playing electric guitar, and I do love playing loud, so maybe someday, I will do some gigs with a rock band, but it’s never going to be the main focus.
So if it happens, you envision it being a separate entity?
Billy: Yeah, a side project, or you might see “Billy Strings Electric” on a festival bill. For the most part, this progressive bluegrass is what we’re doing.
Along those same lines, psychedelia has obviously had a huge impact on your sound, but how has it affected your approach to playing and the intention behind it?
Billy: It makes me want to be less mechanical and technical and be more spiritual and soulful. I want to reach deep into my soul and pull out emotions and have them regurgitated through my guitar. That’s what it’s about. And also the freedom of it. Getting into the Grateful Dead and stuff like that. Studying Jerry taught me a freedom in music that I didn’t learn in bluegrass. Bluegrass is really structured and you have your set solos and everyone takes their turn. There are fiddle tunes where everybody knows the melody and where they go. Rarely are we 100% purely jamming - just reading each other’s emotions and going for it. So I’ve found out that I really like doing that more and more now. I really like trying to play stuff where we don’t really know what the hell we are doing, but it sounds cool.
A lot of what you just said there, I think, also speaks to Col. Bruce’s influence on you, even if it was after he passed. Is that the case?
Billy: He’s one of the greatest at those things that I’m talking about. Everything’s out there in the ether. The music. The weirdness. The sounds. The emotions. They’re all out there. You have to reach out there and grab them and spit them out of your guitar somehow. It’s a weird energy thing. People like Col. Bruce and other improvisational jazz players tap into this other realm and spit it out. I don’t really know how to explain it because I don’t fully understand it myself.
It’s obvious the crowd feeds off of how you embrace that unknown.
Billy: We know just as little about what we’re going to do next than what the crowd does.. We’re just as surprised when we land something.
Are you able to take in any shows as a spectator?
Billy: Not as much as I’d like to because usually when I am at a show, I am working in some way. I don’t go to many concerts. Something in the back of my head lately has been telling me that I need to go see more shows as a stress reliever. I want to go see Tedeschi Trucks Band again, along with so much other good stuff going on right now.
Do you ever see people talking in the middle of your shows and if so, what’s the Billy Strings way of telling them to shut the fuck up?
Billy: Play some really weird shit on my guitar and stare directly at them. I do that sometimes if I see someone just looking at their phone. I will play a bad note, something that sounds like shit, just so that person’s like, “Wait, what?!”. And then they’ll notice I’m staring right at them and they’re like, “Oh, fuck, I am busted.”
Called out by the man.
Billy: Totally. I’m not going to get on the mic and tell people what to do, but I’ll play that weird stuff until they notice.
Last question - are you linking up with fiddler John Mailander at Suwannee Spring Reunion?
Billy: Oh, shit!
He’s there all weekend.
Billy: He reached out to me and I am an asshole.
I wouldn’t complain if you made that happen.
Billy: You just reminded me is what you did, that I need to make that happen. So yes, and thank you for the reminder.
An In-Depth Look at Little Raine Band's 'Dreamwalker' March 19, 2019 16:15
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
The state of Alabama has long played an integral role in the development of American music, most notably blues and country. The groundwork of a rich musical culture was laid in the early 20th century, and the resulting influence can be felt more than ever today. This culture continues to serve as a hotbed for diverse, vibrant music from across the musical spectrum. Somewhere between the realm of jazz and psychedelia, you'll find Birmingham's Little Raine Band, who have been grinding across the Southeast for the better part of a decade.
It's been nearly four years since the release of Liveheart, LRB's first full length album. As you might expect, the band has accumulated an arsenal of new originals since 2015. To the excitement of many, rumors of a new release began circulating over the last year. These rumors became a reality on March 8th when the band released their sophomore album, Dreamwalker. While live recordings have their own unique appeal, there's nothing quite like hearing those studio cuts for the first time. It's always exciting getting your hands on an album you have anxiously awaited, and Dreamwalker was worth every minute of anticipation.
This album has the feel of a concept piece, ultimately telling a story as one track leads into the next. It's never a bad idea to start off with a heavy hitter, and that's exactly what they did. The title track, "Dreamwalker," sets the tone immediately as Daniel Raine (keyboards/vocals) subtly lures you in. The rhythm section couldn't be tighter on this one. Drummer Justin Sledge drives the band straight into the opening verse, and there you get your first taste of Isaiah Smith's unmistakable slap bass lines. Davis Little (guitar) is a master of his craft, and "Dreamwalker" features an impressive balance of heavy riffs and scorching solos. These elements are complimented by Raine's soft, raspy vocals in what truly feels like a stroll through one's dream.
As "Dreamwalker" peacefully dwindles, the transition into "Fiery Hoop" begins. The soft, tasteful clapping which precedes Little's opening guitar riff is the perfect touch. LRB has always done a phenomenal job showcasing the vocals of both Raine and Little, who takes the lead on "Fiery Hoop." I find myself coming back to this track several times a day. The lyrics are clever, powerful, and inspiring. The guitar work is uplifting and nostalgic, and the tune as a whole is pretty damn catchy. These are the characteristics of a great song. I expect this tune to stay in heavy personal rotation for the foreseeable future.
The dream-like state is revisited as the band works its way into "Trying to Fly." The lyrics allude to a struggle in which we can all relate to: "Here I am, just trying to fly. Just can't get my feet off the ground. Too many things, keep fogging my mind. Just can't figure it out." There is a very ambient vibe which ultimately drops into a killer jazz section. Another beautiful showcase of the skill that all four members bring to the table. Sledge and Smith keep things tight and creative, making way for Little and Raine to work their magic.
"Fooling Around" drifts back towards the upbeat, danceable melodies that you feel during "Fiery Hoop." I find myself following Sledge's every move behind the kit here. You're gonna want to get up dance to this one. Maybe do a little "Fooling Around" yourself? Little once again delivers an inspiring message, and it's one of those songs that puts a smile on your face. Any time you have Taylor Hunnicutt lending a hand on vocals, you're in for a treat. She adds a special component that very few are capable of.
Things calm down a bit with "No Man's Land," and the band steers back into that dream-like state. The versatility of this group is what makes them so special, and this song proves that as much as any. Little is best known for his complex riffs and mind-bending solos, but he's equally impressive on the pedal steel. "No Man's Land" makes that perfectly clear, while making room for some blissful harmony vocals as well.
I experienced some serious deja vu when the opening notes of "Artificial Love" hit. While a handful of these songs have a familiar sound, this is an LRB original that I've grown to know and love over the years. You'll hear that classy, elegant jazz sound that the band has perfected in their young career. Tragic City's Desmond Sykes takes you to church on the sax, while Raine attempts to guide you to another galaxy. Smith digs deep on the low end, and things get nice and weird before you know it. The band ultimately lands back in that familiar jazz-driven bliss that is sure to make you dance.
The synth vibes are strong with "Other Side." I can't decide whether this tune feels more like a scene from Stranger Things or an early 90's video game, but I dig it. You really get a taste of Raine's entire arsenal here. Sledge shines on each transition, and Little never fails to deliver some tasteful licks.
The final track comes in the form of "Settled Sun." I'm not sure if the band ever really leaves the dream-like state, but you can definitely feel it throughout this tune. Smith's graceful playing stands out from the opening notes. They couldn't have finished in more appropriate fashion. A multi-layered, complex tune on all fronts. This band has a lot of jazzy moments, but "Settled Sun" might take the cake.
As I mentioned earlier, this release has been on my radar for some time. LRB would be the first to tell you that this was past due. At the end of the day, some great things take time, patience, and persistence. The band's loyal fans now have another serious piece of music to sink their teeth into. "Dreamwalker" was every bit as impressive as we've come to expect from this band. The Birmingham-based four-piece seems poised for its biggest year year. This album will stand the test of time as a pillar of the band's existence.
Stream the album in its entirety here:
Sermons of Suwannee: Jeff Mosier on the Healing Power of Music March 19, 2019 16:03
Interview by Brett Hutchins: Brett on Bands
It shouldn’t surprise you that a man nicknamed “Reverend” has a lot to say. Rev. Jeff Mosier, the longtime right hand man of spiritual jam forefather, Col. Bruce Hampton, is a jamgrass pioneer in his own right. But more important than that is his uniquely purposeful approach to live music. Here, he speaks with Live & Listen about the brain of the improviser, the magic of the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, and how the lessons of music align with everyday life. Mosier’s words are like his playing. They weave and wander, but in the end, they hits home in an intentional, powerful way.
Let’s jump right in with this ensemble you’re so excited about. What’s the format?
Jeff: It’s banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, drums, and electric guitar. The music is very open. We do a lot of improvising and we write. The magic is in the way we present it, almost like chamber music. We sit in the round where we can see each other. We do normal songs too, but it’s the way we play them that makes it different. It’s the best thing I’ve done and I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to do a live album.
I’d bet you prefer playing with groups versus solo.
Jeff: As I’ve gotten older, I’m doing both. I have a solo set planned for Suwanee this weekend. It forces me to use my brain and language more when I’m by myself to do some storytelling mixed with music. When I’m in an ensemble, I use the improvisational Grateful Dead-affected, Col. Bruce nutcase run through the woods naked brain. That’s the brain of a child. The brain of imagination. It’s where all the things he taught me reside - that a band is people yielding their ears one to another in the hopes of becoming bigger than the sum total of their parts.
You can rehearse something and pull it off or you can get up there and make the donuts, take chances, risk, and do it in front of a live audience. I prefer that. I like having some structure, but improv is what really moves me these days. Now I’m playing with musicians who are all comfortable with improv. I don’t get scared looks on the stage anymore. Anyone I play with knows that anything might happen at any given moment. And nobody ever looks surprised.
Is that part of the brain something that needs to be developed or does everyone have an inkling of it from the get-go?
Jeff: It’s more of a philosophy that you apply to your ears. Improvising is not something you can learn. It is feel and how you respond to your environment. That’s how I define it. Feel is how you relate to The One or The Beat. It’s what you leave out. It’s what you put in. As has been said many times - John Hartford said it and many others - style is based on limitations. It’s what you can’t do that defines you, not what you can do. A lot of people who fill up their bucket with skills are people who think they have more to offer than they do. Sometimes, having less to offer affords people opportunities, meaning that musicians who are really good at what they do and don’t reach beyond that are better to play with because they are comfortable with who they are.
From a spiritual point of view, it’s your philosophy that makes you a good improviser, not your skill set. If you love the concept of improvising, then it lets you get to the point where, as Bruce used to say, you let The Invisible Whip take over. You’re getting to the point where you aren’t playing music, the music is playing you. That’s what I learned when I was in the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Even though I was in a band that could play circles around me, I was an equal with them as far as how open I was. It changed my life at 30 years old. I’ve never been able to go back to formulary music.
It sounds like a lot of those lessons you’ve learned through music, via Col Bruce or otherwise, translate to the real world and everyday life as well.
Jeff: They really do. If you keep your expectations low in life and you raise your tolerance for frustration, that space in the middle is mental health. A lot of times, if you raise your expectations too high in music, you miss the point. You want to bring too much to the table. You want to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it’s the simplest of notions that will hit a listener right between the eyes, bring a tear to the eyes, chill bumps to their arms, make them move, dance, think, emote, and realize something. I play music as a spiritual activity. I know it’s entertainment, too, but in my mind, I am playing it as a healing point in the universe. That’s what Albert Ayler called it.
Right now more than ever, people need that healing aspect, they need it live, and they need it together in a crowd. Festivals are serving a need that we never imagined we’d need. The elephant in the room I don’t even have to mention, but we do need that community. Music is color blind and culture-blind. And is a beautiful reminder of what makes us human.
Circling back to that communal experience you were talking about. I know you have a theology background. What similarities do you see between the experience of church and that of live music?
Jeff: Live music creates community very much like the church does. A lot of people that come into music or are at Suwannee are also involved with church. I had to step out of that mold because I was overloaded. I saw the first Moral Majority meeting in Atlanta. I was involved in the hardcore Christian Right growing up.
When I got into music, it became my new family. I could believe, cry, feel, think, have friends, have ritual, have all the things church provided me, in and around performing and listening to music. We had something in common and the music became the belief system. My biggest belief is that art equals life. No matter what you have to do as a parent, a spouse, a worker, your life is in some way, a creative activity, Hopefully, we are all working to leave a legacy of something that will survive in perpetuity after you’re gone.
We’re really good at making something out of nothing. We can do it. Sadly, we’re really good at bad ideas as well. We’ve yet to achieve viability as a species. We are only viable to ourselves right now. We’re not doing a good job being viable to the system that spawned us. Music can do that.
We can do it without being political and playing green songs and all that stuff. We prove ourselves simply by being out there under those trees together, dancing, joking around the fire, hearing the music and seeing our friends. We sleep. We watch the days go by. We see the weather. We’re in the weather. All that stuff reminds us that we are a part of nature, not apart from it. The more apart from nature we become, the more miserable we are. That’s why we focus on money and government. We’ve lost our way.
Music holds our hand and brings us back to our senses. That’s why I still do it. For myself, my family, and all the people that enjoy what I do.
Great stuff, Jeff. Anything else you’d like to add?
Jeff: Live Oak is the balm. It heals me from missing Bruce, missing Vassar. It gives me a chance at 60 to keep it going as long as I can. So far, so good. That’s all you can do - keep writing, creating, doing interviews with folks like you and you doing your writing, that’s what life is - keeping the ball rolling.
That’s one of the things I love about these Suwannee roots festivals - you can feel the musical history floating through the air and you have people full of intention, both onstage and out in the crowd that are there with respect for the past but also there for the now.
Jeff: It’s a special place and it made a huge difference in my kids’ lives. They’re in their 20s, but they started going when they were babies. It taught them everything they needed to know without us having to teach them. It taught them how to be. They decided to be people like the people of Suwannee. And now they’re good people. My little boy used to say, “Why can’t the world be like Suwannee?!”. That’s really it. Why not? I think it can.
I go there every year in hopes of keeping that going, though it seems like the world’s gone down and that the message has lost its meaning. It’s easy to go there, but I can’t. Gratitude is the attitude.I keep my chin up and post more about the things I believe in and less about the things I don’t.
The Jeff Mosier Ensemble is scheduled to perform at Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival in Live Oak, FL this weekend. This group features Mosier, Mark Nelson (bass), Leah Calvert (fiddle), Adam Goodhue (drums), Neal Fountain (electric guitar), and Michael David Smith (mandolin).
Photo by Andy Estes
JoJo Hermann Discusses James Booker, New Orleans Piano Influences March 19, 2019 15:13
Watch Little Raine Band Cover Cake's "The Distance" March 2, 2019 15:34
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
The world needs more Cake. We've been saying it for years. They've been one of our favorite bands over the last twenty years, and their tour dates are few and far between these days. Fortunately, we've noticed a handful of our favorite bands working Cake tunes into rotation, including a recent take on "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" by The String Cheese Incident last fall (check it out here).
The latest example surfaced this morning from Little Raine Band's recent take on "The Distance," the hit single from the 1996 release Fashion Nugget. It's not a true Cake experience without a little brass, and Tragic City's Tommy Bowen added a fantastic touch on this one. Check out the complete performance below, and keep an eye out for LRB's new album Dreamwalker, which drops on Friday, March 8th!
Watch LRB cover "The Distance" at WorkPlay Theatre here:
Listen to Bird Dog Jubilee's Latest Single "Take Your Breath" March 1, 2019 11:07
Bird Dog Jubilee’s latest release, “Take Your Breath”, was recorded live at Aisle 5 in Atlanta Georgia. It is a follow up to their previous release “Tabby’s Playhouse” which was also recorded by Andre Griffin on August 31, 2018. “Take Your Breath” will be available on Spotify and everywhere music streams on March 8th, 2019. In the meantime, we're pleased to offer you the exclusive release of the band's latest release.
BDJ’s homecoming at Variety Playhouse February 17th, supporting Spafford, established their position in Atlanta’s budding music scene and cemented them as a jovial act here to stay. They have been gaining steam by steadily notching off clutch plays last year including BIG Something support at Terminal West, CBDB support at Georgia Theatre & Song Birds, SweetWater 420 Music Festival, and SweetWater 21st Anniversary Party. They now have their sights set on touring the Southeast.
They released Album Art, their inaugural 3-song EP, at 420 Fest last year. It was recorded at Prana Studios with Will Clark of Funk You’s and Andy just outside the Atlanta city limits. Whether they are blending old ballads or hashing out new grooves, this is act is always a sight to see at their crux.
These guys are a collection of instrumentalists that blur the lines between structured songs and improvisational jams. This is encapsulated by their ability to seamlessly meld tunes while encouraging impromptu collaborations with fellow musicians live on stage.
Each member has an eclectic set of influences in which they draw inspiration from, but they can always agree on The Band, The Dead, Phish, Allman Bros or My Morning Jacket while on the road. The synergy of each member’s experiences culminate live on stage providing a unique take each time you attend a performance.
Check out the exclusive stream of "Take Your Breath" here:
Mandolin Orange Swims Against the Current in 'Tides of a Teardrop' February 26, 2019 15:48
Words by Josh Hettermann
Long gone are the days where most musical artists could be defined by a specific genre. To that point, it is no new phenomenon for musicians to straddle the lines between a far ranging sphere of sound and influence. You would be hard pressed to find passionate music fans that could pigeonhole icons such as Pink Floyd into one musical category. The same could be said for legendary artists such as John Prine, Fleetwood Mac and cult favorites like Ry Cooder. That being said, since founding Mandolin Orange in 2009 in Chapel Hill, NC, mandolinist Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz have created as unique and enigmatic a sound as any band we have seen in the modern music landscape. The group’s standout record Tides of a Teardrop, released earlier this month, is a shining example of the sheer talent and versatility as artists.
Due to the great success of their dynamic and critically acclaimed album Blindfaller in September 2016, which featured standout tracks such as “Hey Stranger” and “Wildfire,” there was reasonably high hopes and expectations for their newest output Tides of a Teardrop upon being announced in late Fall 2018. The duo’s remarkable vocal and instrumental harmonies and seamlessly effortless blending of folk, bluegrass and Americana in their past output justified said hype; it is no overstatement to say that Tides of a Teardrop meets these expectations and more.
Tides of a Teardrop’s first two tracks were two of the singles released over the months prior to the album’s release. The opening track, “Golden Embers,” was one of these singles. A somber, pensive track, its lyrics speak to a wounded soul reaching out to an old flame. The track features excellent use of a stand-up bass interlude towards the end of the song. “The Wolves” follows, and is undoubtedly a highlight of the album. Andrew Marlin’s vocals and virtuoso mandolin playing seem so effortless and organic that it transports the listener to a peaceful place. Circling back to the opening anecdote of this review, Marlin’s tone changes significantly from the track’s first chorus to its third and final one. He sings the first confidently and steadily, and transforms the third and final chorus with an uptick in his voice, expressing comfort and ease.
“Into the Sun” is a standout track that showcases Frantz’ beautiful, melodic range. The group’s lyrics range from heartbreak to hope, as Frantz sings, “Just a bird with a broken wing, longing to fly.”
“Lonely All the Time” displays their roots in traditional bluegrass, with a beautiful harmony between Marlin and Frantz. The supporting honky-tonk guitar provides a refreshing break from the twangy strings of the band’s two leads. Frantz and Marlin’s symmetrical verse to end the song recall the connection that legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette shared on their 1976 collaboration “Golden Ring.”
There is no doubt that the final track of any album is integral to its perception and legacy amongst fans and critics alike. More importantly, it allows the artist to nail down the ethos and tone that they wish to get across in their art. Tides of a Teardrop’s finale “Time We Made Time” absolutely cements this notion. Frantz’ fiddle carries a somber yet hopeful tune. The song evokes the memories of a distant romance where the participants can hope to always count on each other in times of need. A strong slide guitar and a heavily distorted finish call to mind psychedelic, exploratory rock. Marlin croons of discussions with a strained lover with the lyrics, “Softly, tenderly, using delicate voices.”
To put it simply, Tides of a Teardrop is a prolonged love letter. It is one full of hope, heartbreak and vulnerability. All of these themes carry discomfort and self-consciousness. By nature, these imperfect aspects of the human condition are undoubtedly difficult to address; this is why Mandolin Orange is so unique as an artist. They create an undeniably original sound, supported by the firebrand that is Frantz’ and Marlin’s virtuoso musicianship. It is refreshing to hear music so heartfelt and sensitive in this day and age, and Tides of a Teardrop is a perfect encapsulation of this true display of human emotion.
Stream the album in its entirety via Spotify here:
The Gulf Coast Conundrum: James Booker and The Lost Paramount Tapes February 25, 2019 16:21
Words by Josh Hettermann
As technology and society have evolved, art has become increasingly omnipresent in our daily lives. Regardless of whether the audience is millions of fans or a mere few hundred, 21st century technological platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Spotify allow musicians and visual artists a constant opportunity to promote and share their work. Its easy to forget that as recently as 20 years ago, artists had to rely on traditional grassroots methods to get their work out to the public. Robert Johnson is considered the King of the Delta Blues and had a profound influence on musical deities such as BB King, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The remarkable aspect of Johnson’s legacy, though, is that his now fabled raw recordings were released to the public for the first time in 1961, close to 25 years after he unceremoniously passed away. Other famed artists such as Blaze Foley, Johann Sebastian Bach and Vincent Van Gogh belong in the same category by the sheer nature that their work became widely celebrated well after their time.
James Booker undoubtedly belongs in this category of artists whose work flew well under the radar during their careers. Unlike the aforementioned creatives, though, Booker has yet to achieve the due credit he deserves. The August 2018 vinyl release of his criminally underrated record The Lost Paramount Tapes should be celebrated as a monumental musical achievement.
Born in 1939 in the historically African American and poverty stricken 9th ward of New Orleans that has produced musical legends such as Fats Domino and the prominent Batiste family, James Carroll Booker III showed an early knack for the piano and honed his skills by playing in local Baptist churches and also as an understudy of the iconic blues pianist Tuts Washington. After a decade of working tirelessly as a session musician, Booker recorded his first studio album The Lost Paramount Tapes at the famed Paramount Studios in Hollywood in 1973 with a talented supporting cast that included band members of New Orleans’ own icon Dr. John. Somehow, the master tapes for these sessions were lost soon after these sessions. Fortunately for us, the recordings were unearthed in 1992 and released in CD form the next year without much fanfare or publicity. At the time, Booker had been dead for close to 10 years after succumbing to heart failure due to years of chronic alcohol and heroine abuse in 1983 at the relatively young age of 43.
Listen to JoJo Hermann's podcast on The Lost Paramount Tapes here:
Forgive my wordy preamble. I’ve only included it because it is almost unfathomable to me that someone as mercurial and supremely talented as James Booker could possibly be so underserved and undiscovered in today’s music world. The recent resurgence of vinyl record production has blessed music fans all over the world with the opportunity to discover music they may have never had the chance to listen to before. The Lost Paramount Tapes is a perfect example of this. It was remastered and released on vinyl in August 2018 and is without a doubt a musical masterpiece. By blending elements of boogie-woogie, blues and roots rock, in conjunction with Booker’s visceral and impassioned efforts on the keys, the record is a standout production from start to finish and is Booker’s magnum opus. The second track, “Feel So Bad,” utilizes sturdy percussion and scintillating piano playing from the man himself to create an infectious groove. “Junco Partner” is undoubtedly influenced by the cajun rhythms of Booker’s hometown. The highlight of the disc, though, comes in the instrumental track “African Gumbo.” Booker pays homage to ragtime greats like Scott Joplin with a sustained, funky rhythmic sequence highlighted by excellent guitar work and irresistible saxophone playing by fellow NOLA legend David Lastie. While every single track packs a substantial punch, Booker and his band contributed their own take on the epic T-Bone Walker blues standard “Stormy Monday,” a piece immortalized just two years prior on the Allman Brothers Band’s iconic 1971 Live at Fillmore East record.
Records like James Booker’s The Lost Paramount Tapes will never top the charts and will undoubtedly never get the credit they truly deserve. “Junco Partner #2,” the most popular track from the disc, has an unremarkable 65,000 plays on Spotify. Despite this, the legacy and influence of artists like Booker is palpable. John “JoJo” Hermann, celebrated by fans and keys enthusiasts alike as the longtime pianist and contributing vocalist for Widespread Panic, recently dedicated a whole episode of his podcast Key’d In to the record. His influence on Hermann’s prose and sound is readily apparent even to novice fans of the group. Plato once said that “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” James Booker embodied those incredibly wise words on The Lost Paramount Tapes, and it is a shame that he is not around to witness his art’s profound impact that continues to this day.
Stream The Lost Paramount Tapes here via Spotify:
Bailey Ingle Discusses Debut Single "In Love With The Memories" February 24, 2019 21:22
Photos + Interview by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Bailey Ingle is a native of Hoover, AL and a singer/songwriter known for her warm, soulful voice and charismatic stage presence. At 19 years old, many consider her to be an old soul. Just last week, Bailey held her hometown release party in celebration of her debut single "In Love With The Memories," which is now available on all major streaming outlets. Prior to the show, we sat down with Bailey to learn a little bit more about her journey thus far. See the full conversation below, and make sure to stream the new single.
When did you first start playing music and what led you to the guitar?
Bailey: I started singing when I was three. As soon as I could talk, I was singing. My grandmother can sing and my dad play's guitar, so we come from a really musical family. I sang with Keith Urban, and he asked me if I wanted to play his guitar. I was like, “I don't want to touch your guitar,” because it's amazing. From then on out, I knew I wanted to get to a point where I'm good enough. That way, if he ever asks me again, I'd be able to say, "Heck yeah. I'll play your guitar!" That's essentially what lead me to having a better drive for it.
I remember when you performed with him at Oak Mountain. You were only about 15 years old.
Bailey: Yeah that's right (laughs).
At what point did you realize this was the career you wanted to pursue?
Bailey: As soon as I stepped on stage at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater with him. It was as if there was nothing else that I could ever do. I really don't think there's any other calling out there for me.
Your new single “In Love With The Memories” was released today (Feb. 15th). Tell me about the song and how it reflects on you as an artist.
Bailey: "In Love With The Memories" is something I wrote with Emily Brook in 2017. It was our first time meeting. It was just one of those things where we thought it would be a trial run. Our chemistry worked great, so we wrote the song in just a few hours. For me, I usually take a lot of time to write. It usually takes me about four hours, but this song flowed perfectly. I feel like it's a good reflection of this side of me. I know I'm nineteen, but I feel like there's a lot of depth to what I can write. It makes you realize you shouldn't stay with someone just because you're in the comfort zone with them.
How was the studio experience?
Bailey: It was crazy. I recorded it at Cash Cabin, which Johnny Cash built in Hendersonville TN. Dave Schools produced it. Dave brought in all these musicians that I've idolized the records they've played on from Elvis Presley, Marty Stuart and Aretha Franklin. It was crazy. It was one of those things where it was exhilarating and so exciting but it was also terrifying cause I was eighteen year old and I was like there's no way I'm supposed to be in here this is crazy but it was amazing.
Listen to Bailey Ingle's "In Love With The Memories" here:
You've had the opportunity to work with some great people including some guys from my favorite band Widespread Panic: Steve Lopez and Dave Schools. How did you guys meet and how special has this been?
Bailey: I met Dave through Steve. I met Steve where I played at an event in January of 2018. A few weeks later, I got a call from my aunt, who knows Steve's wife Ginny basically just saying we were going to be put in touch. We met at a Widespread Panic show and I met Dave. They were just going to pitch me for a project. I didn't know what was going to come from it. They called me the next week and said that Blue Rose wanted me to come up to the cabin and record five songs that I had written. I still really didn't know what was coming from it. I thought it was like a project they were gonna have fun. Like a development kind of thing but then it lead to a record deal with some pretty cool people.
How is the rest of the year shaping up post-release and what do we have to look forward to from Bailey Ingle?
Bailey: We have another single coming out pretty soon after this and another music video will come with it. Then we'll have an EP or an album. Then I'll be hitting the road the rest of the year. I think we're gonna try and go the festival route this summer and do as much touring as we can.
Do you know what festivals?
Bailey: Not yet. We have some in mind but haven't confirmed any yet.
I'll be looking forward to those announcements. Before we wrap things up, I'd love to get a little insight from you, Steve. Your track record as tour manager for Widespread Panic is well documented. What ultimately lead to your decision to take on this management role for Bailey?
Steve: Before I started tour managing Widespread I managed a couple of other bands. Fast forward to Widespread Panic. I've been with them for nineteen years. Then recently in the past year I decided to potentially start managing again and I picked up a band out of Austin TX. I believe everyone in Bailey's family and their friends kept telling me about her. It was a funeral that actually led me to listen to her. The way she held herself and her composure singing was quite beautiful to the point I left there thinking, "Wow. This girl has something."
Then a couple of opportunities fell in my lap. I called her on my way to Mexico last year, asked if she wanted me to manage and if so, we could sit down and talk. We did, and I explained to her how I do things. We agreed on something and now, fast forward again, we're here, releasing her new single. It's a pretty cool story and I'm excited to see what she has in store for us. I think she's going to be around for a long time.
I think you're right.
Steve: Yes. For sure.
Thank you Steve.
Steve: Thanks Craig.
This Weekend: Montgomery’s 6th Annual Mardi Gras Block Party February 20, 2019 15:26
Montgomery’s Downtown Business Association (DBA Montgomery) will once again bring the Mardi Gras funk to the 100 block of Commerce Street from Noon - 6pm on Saturday, February 23rd for the 6th Annual Mardi Gras Block Party and Cajun Cook Off. This year, we are proud to partner with the Alabama 200 and Montgomery 200 as part of this event. The Block Party is free, family-friendly and open to the public. Tickets are required to experience the Cajun Cook Off that will take place 12pm - 2pm and will feature some of Montgomery’s premiere restaurants showing off their best cajun dish.
Advanced tickets for the Cajun Cook Off are currently available for $20 each on the Mardi Gras Block Party & Cajun Cook Off Facebook event page or by going to clicking here. Any remaining tickets will be sold on site for $25 each. It is strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance as the event is always a sell out. All proceeds will benefit Valiant Cross Academy and That’s My Child, two local nonprofits that are improving our city by educating and empowering our youth.
Headlining this year’s Block Party is one of the elite brass bands from New Orleans, Stooges Brass Band who will take the stage at 3pm. The Stooges consistently provide a welcome blast of true Big Easy spirit by engaging audiences with their innovative blend of traditional New Orleans brass sounds, contemporary jazz and hip hop beats. They have gained notoriety as a full-blown musical party immersing the crowd in a cut-loose vibe that is contemporary yet deeply rooted in the culturally rich musical legacy of New Orleans. Also performing is Montgomery’s own, The Avant Garde Creative League who will kick off the party starting at NOON. Followed by the Outlawz Brass Band from Mobile.
Mark Bullock and Tonya Terry from WSFA will once again serve as masters of ceremony. The event will go on rain or shine. No outside alcohol is allowed. In true Mardi Gras fashion, costumes and dancing shoes are encouraged. Follow the event on Facebook by clicking here.
Entertainment is sponsored by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Other sponsors include City of Montgomery, Alabama Power, Bama Budweiser, Willie Durham State Farm, Goodwyn Mills & Cawood, City Councilman Arch Lee, Serquest, AALOS, Starke Agency, Alabama State Grad Program, Robert D. Reynolds, LLC, WSFA, Rushton Stakely and others.
Check out additional video footage of Stooges Brass Band here:
All Things Synthwave: An Interview with Doom Flamingo's Ross Bogan February 14, 2019 15:47
Photo by Nicholas Lintz
Interview by Jordan Kirkland
It's not everyday that you're introduced to an entirely new genre of music. Upon hearing of a new Charleston-based band called Doom Flamingo, I had no idea what to expect. It wasn't long before I learned of Ryan Stasik's (Umphrey's McGee) involvement, as well as some serious Charleston musicians, including keyboardist / synth master Ross Bogan. After hearing Doom's first few releases and getting my first taste of synthwave, I sat down with Ross to learn a little more about the overall vision for this project. Check out the full conversation below, and see below for details on the Doom Flamingo's free live stream from Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday, February 16th via The Relix Channel!
Let's start off with the original idea for Doom Flamingo. What sparked the original idea? How did you guys bring it to life?
Ross: Ryan (Stasik) moved to Charleston a few years ago, as did Vince (Iwinski), who is Umphrey's McGee's manager. Umphrey's was playing a show here that Friends With Benefits, who our manager (Hank Wharton) was putting on. Ryan reached out about putting together a group of local musicians for an afterparty. He and Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey's) have another band, Omega Moos, that couldn't make it. Hank reached out to me with a few ideas for potential band members. I was driving back from Grand Canyon with Amy, my girlfriend. We were driving the van cross country. I remember getting the text and being blown away. Stasik wants to start a band. Amy looked at me and said, "Don't get in a wreck."
I had been listening to a lot of Synthwave at the time. My friend Jon Black had been sending me playlists. I really fell in love with that music, so I pitched the idea to Ryan and Mike (Quinn), and they were on board immediately. Within about thirty minutes, I think we had figured out the concept of the band and the name, Doom Flamingo. We were tossing some ridiculous names back and forth. Ryan really liked the idea of using Doom in some fashion. I wasn't so sure about Doom Flamingo initially, but I rolled with it. Afterwords, things were just starting to warm up, and I was noticing flamingos everywhere.
So we embarked on this Synthwave journey, and it was something we really didn't have much experience with. Just from working with each band member in the past, I know that all we need is a set goal for the show. We'll figure out a way to pull it off. Whether it's an Earth Wind & Fire tribute, Black Sabbath tribute, or even re-scoring The Exorcist, we've been able to pull off quite a few concepts. Doom Flamingo encompasses all of our different skills and puts them into one band. Musically, we're sort of all over the place. Several of the guys are deeply rooted in jazz, as well as funk. I've been in the jam and reggae scenes for a while. It's cool that we're going with this concept.
Synthwave is usually coming from one person. It's interesting to approach this music with six people. We took it into the studio to nail down some tracks for the first show (May 31st, 2018). I had a few demos, and we worked on the instrumental parts. Kanika (Moore) came in and already had three songs completely written. She went in the other room and started singing "F-16" with one of the instrumentals. She really blew us away. We were just like, "Holy shit. This has insane potential." We all saw it then and there. Since then, we've been going pretty balls-to-the-wall with it. Constantly sending each other music and ideas.
It's definitely a unique concept. What do you guys hope to accomplish here in year two?
Ross: As far as goals, the idea is to get as many gigs as possible. We're getting into some festivals to be announced soon. There are some other offers on the table, which we're really excited about. When we were first starting, I wondered how much we could actually play around the Umphrey's schedule. How often would Ryan want to play? He's got two young children now. Seeing how stoked he is about it, and how much he pushes us to try new things. It's been a really cool experience.
It's been amazing to watch this band come to life. I remember hearing about this idea last Spring and wondering what would come from it. Once I heard that first recording of "F-16," I think I had the same reaction that you guys did.
Ross: Oh yeah. It's interesting. I've never dabbled in pop music. When I was previously playing with this reggae band, I was making beats and instrumentals. I took that same approach, and once we got in the studio, the tracks really came to life. Kanika's writing really blew me away. I believe this is the first original project that she has recorded with. It's pretty wild to see what a raw talent she is. I've wanted to get this group of musicians together for a while now. We've all played multiple gigs together. To have all of this come together is pretty phenomenal. I'm really excited and want to play as much as possible.
Watch Doom Flamingo performing in Richmond, VA here:
I would imagine so. I'll be honest, I wasn't familiar with synthwave at all prior to this band. For the sake of anyone else who's wondering what the genre is all about, how would you explain the band's take on it?
Ross: I've heard it described as what 80s synthesizer musicians thought music would sound like in the future. It's kind of retro-futuristic. Obviously, the technology has changed since the electronic scene of the early 80s. We have a few more tools to apply to it. While it does have the 80s reference and aesthetic, it also has a futuristic vibe as well. We've been working with this (visual) artist named Iron Skullet. He has a really nice synopsis of what synthwave is on his site (ironskullet.com). He wraps it up pretty nicely, if you're ever looking to learn more about it. It's really interesting. There are so many genres within synthwave. There's darksynth, which is rooted in heavy metal music, but with synthesizers. There's Outrun, which is sort of driving music. There's dreamwave, which is poppier, dreamy synthesizer music.
There's quite a few elements that fall under the umbrella. Most synthwave artists are rooted in one of those styles. We're trying to tackle all of them, while playing with a live band. Obviously, we're all improvisational musicians at our core. We play gigs where we just roll with it for three hours all the time. That comes out in our live show. You've got Ryan's background with Umphrey's McGee... Those guys are some of the craziest improvisational musicians in the game. The way they play together as a band is pretty special. They're unlike any other band I've ever seen.
That's a fact. They're a freakin' machine.
Ross: That's a great description. It's a machine.
You guys have how many shows under your belt at this point?
Ross: We just did our sixth show in Richmond.
How is the calendar shaping up the band? I know there are some nice opportunities with Umphrey's afterparties. Is there a specific game plan or forecast that you guys have in mind?
Ross: Right now, we have shows around Umphrey's schedule in New York City at Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville at Mercy Lounge, Denver at Cervantes' Masterpiece, and more in the works. We also headline French Broad River Festival outside of Asheville in May, and have more festivals soon to announce... We're trying to hit as many of the major markets as we can. We're going full speed ahead and hope to make it as big as we possibly can. There are big hopes and aspirations for Doom. Seeing the feedback after having 600+ people at a show, it's been pretty mind blowing for all of us.
The way people have been receiving us has been crazy. There's so much that you can do with this concept. I've seen people dressed in Doom Flamingo costumes. It's pretty cool. We have this comic book coming out as well. We just got the script from our buddy Jordan Noir, who we met on Instagram. We're really excited about that. The more the comic grows, I believe we can incorporate more musical characters from other bands and friends. It's such a conceptual thing. There's really no limit to it, as far as creativity is concerned.
You've been releasing the originals as singles thus far. Is that the formula the the band plans to stick with?
Ross: The reason we've been releasing singles is so we could get some initial material out there. Something for people to actually listen to. We had shows in place, and I think people were wondering, "What is this?" We wanted to get some material out there as quickly as possible. I think the single is definitely becoming more common, with people's attention spans dwindling in the music scene. Creatively, we do want to release a full album. Right now, we have an EP in the works which should show more of the overall vision.
The Unpredictable Journey of Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney February 4, 2019 14:58
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Celebrating their 33rd Anniversary together, Atlanta-based folk rock act, Drivin' N Cryin', have spent most of their career on tour. In October 1985 Drivin' N Cryin' played their first show at Atlanta’s famed 688 Club. The band quickly gained attention for their blistering live shows, and amassed a rabid fanbase in the fertile soil of the late-1980s Southeast music scene. Now, 33 years later, and after releasing four full length albums on Island Records and one on Geffen Records, founding members Kevn Kinney and Tim Nielsen find themselves enjoying a milestone anniversary for the band, having survived the pressures of fame, a shifting musical landscape, multiple lineup changes, and miles of back roads and highways to arrive here.
With a gold record, 10 full-length albums, and a handful of EPs to their credit, the band still refuses to rest. In 2012, a documentary about the band, entitled Scarred but Smarter: Life n Times of Drivin' N’ Cryin’, was produced. In 2015, a collection of 10 choice cuts from the band’s 4-EP “Songs” series, entitled Best of Songs, was released on Nashville’s Plowboy Records. Additionally, the band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame that same year. The following year, Drivin' N Cryin' released a vinyl-only album, entitled Archives Vol One, with a collection of basement recordings from the years 1988 to 1990. With Dave V. Johnson as their drummer, and the band's newest member, Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band), now being added to the lineup, Drivin' N Cryin' continues to tour the U.S. to great acclaim.
Montgomery, Alabama is in for a treat on February 21st, as Kevn Kinney comes to town for a rare solo performance at the Capri Theatre. We recently sat down with Kevn to get the full story on how this band came to life, the journey from building sewage plants to touring the country, and details on what the band has planned for the future. See below for the full conversation.
I typically start these interviews off with a general history lesson. Let's hear the story of Kevn Kinney, as well as Drivin N Cryin. You were born and raised in Milwaukee, correct?
Kevn: Yes. I was raised in a hardworking, Irish-Catholic, middle class family. Five children in a 1000 square foot house. Music was everywhere. We had three pianos and several guitars in that little house. All of my sisters played instruments. Piano, guitar, flute, clarinet. My brother played everything. It was a pretty musical household. From an early age, I was surrounded by the blessings of having music in my life. You have a bad day, then you sit down at the piano or with your guitar. You focus on what you're doing and learn how to express yourself. Try to figure out how the world works, and why people are the way that they are. Why people expect certain things.
I was really, really fortunate. I don't know how my Dad raised five children on a refrigeration engineer's salary, but he did it. We're all very good people because of it. We all care for each other, as well as those around us. We all still play, enjoy, and respect music. That's kind of what made me who I am. I can't imagine living in a house where someone says, "Put down that damn guitar!" My dad would say, "Play that guitar!"
I've tried to do the same with my children. My daughter plays piano. I think my son is one of the best drummers in Atlanta. He's a part of the underground, independent rock scene here. One of his first teachers was Col. Bruce Hampton's drummer. So yeah, I grew up in Milwaukee. It was cold, and we were stuck inside a lot. We learned to open our minds through the music opening the landscape of opportunity and a glimpse at the future.
How did you ultimately make it down south? What led you to Atlanta?
Kevn: I did not come down here musically. I was 23 years old, and my brother had recently walked the Appalachian Trail. He wound up in Atlanta. He came home briefly before moving back to Georgia. He encouraged me to move down here and assured me that I could find work. The jobs started at $4.50 an hour, and I was like, "Whoa!" I was making about $2.15 an hour at the time. I could maybe make $3.10 an hour if I had stayed there for a little bit longer. I was never going to get ahead. I decided I would go be a laborer for $4.50 an hour. Then, I learned a trade.
My first job down here was great, because it was really hard. I worked with a whole lot of people from Alabama at this construction company. We built sewage plants. They trained me to be a form carpenter. I did that from 1982 until 1984. In 1985, I quit and moved on to indoor carpentry building cabinets. I was sick of working outside. I think I was making around $9.25 an hour at my last job, which was a ton of money in 1984.
When I quit to travel and ride in a van with a band, I was giving up a pretty steady income. I was happy for the opportunity. Drivin' N Cryin' was pretty popular right away because of the fact that I had some serious players. Our bassist (Tim Nielsen) and drummer (Paul Lenz) were members of probably the most famous band in Atlanta. They were the band that could sell out the 688 Punk Club. They quit that band to join me after seeing me play with this punk rock band from Milwaukee.
This was when, 1985?
Kevn: Correct. 1985. That's where the Drivin' N Cryin' story begins.
Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Straight to Hell" here:
Tell me about those first few years. Getting started and developing your catalog. Building your reputation in Atlanta and the surrounding markets.
Kevn: I'll tell you what we did then, and I think what it would help to do now. We did a very early version of modern day advertising. Let's rewind just a little bit here. I was also working part-time at a futon store. My boss got a nice deal buying these weekly ads. Drivin' N Cryin' decided to do the same thing. We had a little tiny ad with our logo, and we would list our shows underneath. The initial dates would be predominantly Atlanta, but we were eventually able to show our progress with dates in Chattanooga, Athens, Chapel Hill, even New York City. People may not of known who we were, but they could see our progress in this ad each week. It made us look organized. I feel like that really helped bring crowds in. Letting people know who you are and where you're going.
I write a lot of melodies, and then I fill them in with words. Whatever I'm thinking about at the time. I would call my answering machine in the old days. That allowed me to remember what it was and turn it into a song. Songs like "Straight to Hell" started just like that with a simple melody. You find yourself singing it in traffic and think it's just a passing thing. Songs like "Malfunction Junction" and "Honeysuckle Blues" came to life in the same way. I decided that I wanted to have rock music, and I didn't want to sing about bars and girls the whole time. I wanted to capture America changing.
Back in the 80s, it was about how much America was being homogenized. It turned out to be true. If you drove me around for 9.5 hours, in a circle or a straight line, and you pulled me into a truck stop and asked where I was...I wouldn't be able to tell you. There would be a Subway and a Chester's there though. It could be Wyoming, Missouri, or Alabama. Everything was the same. I miss that element of America where things were special. You had to get off the highway to go find the hamburger joint. We try to use the Yelp app as much as we can. We like finding the local diner, meat and three, or BBQ joint. Something besides a chain restaurant.
That's a great practice. You're selling yourself short if you don't. So, there were some special things happening in and around Atlanta music at this time. How vital was this towards the early days for the band?
Kevn: We had a great family of bands surrounding us at the time. There was a really nice community, and we all shared stories and experiences. Discussing our first road trips and things like that. We all played together constantly. We'd go to each other's practices to see how other bands did things. Uncle Green was this band that had their own house. They were this fantastic band that moved down from New Jersey. I think they ended up making a record with Brendan O'Brien.
Community is important. If you have a band in Montgomery, Alabama, hopefully you are friends with the other eight bands in Montgomery, Alabama. If you're not, you should be. You have to create a coalition and encourage each other, have each other's backs. We'd get together and play on the street. Help each other through breakups and makeups. Network with one another. Sit around and listen to music. Smoking pot. Drinking Mad Dog. Whatever it was that got us through the day. Good coffee was hard to get back then. Expressos were impossible.
I don't remember too many details of what made what go where, but I remember the overall cloud of friendship and community. I've never really focused on the details of yesterday. I like to focus on what I'm here to do, and how crazy it is that people pay me to do it. Being honest with yourself. When I talk to kids about songwriting, they ask how I wrote certain songs. My answer is always, "Just tell your story." Don't think about the crossroads. You will obviously want to imitate your heroes, whether its The Rolling Stones or Foo Fighters.
Eventually, you have to find the discipline to let that go and tell your story. That's the only thing that's going to make you special. If you grew up in a suburban house, right off the highway, with shag carpet and an avocado colored refrigerator, books and magazines stacked up in your mom's tupperware collection...tell me that story. That's special only to you and no one else. I'm interested in that story. I prefer the non-fiction story.
Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Let's Go Dancing" here:
How would you describe the more recent years for the band? How do you guys go about balancing your time at home versus out on the road?
Kevn: We're seeing that a lot of our fans now have grown children. They don't need a babysitter anymore, and they can actually come to the shows again. Their children are grown, so they're coming to the shows as well. They've been hearing Mom and Dad talk about us all these years. We're starting to notice a younger crowd, as far as our popularity goes. I think we're doing pretty well there. We have a new guitarist named Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band). I'm actually trying to get him to come to the Montgomery show with me.
I'm still writing songs. We just cut a new record. It might be one of the top two or three records that I ever make. We're super excited about it. Really great circumstances. We recorded it in Nashville. There is an entire generation of folks that remember us from their childhood. They're curious as to who we were and where we're going now. The good news is that we still have a lot of people who don't know who we are. I really think that's a good thing. We have a lot of people that we can still reach.
One of the newer friends I've made is Jamey Johnson. I fell in love with his music, voice, and discipline. I saw him play and knew I'd love to play with him one day. Warren Haynes introduced us at the Christmas Jam, and we've played "Honeysuckle Blue" and "Straight to Hell" a couple of times now. I'm overwhelmed when I look over and see him singing those songs on stage. Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed that I forget the words (laughs). He has to remember them for me. I made it down to his charity golf tournament at Cottonwood Golf Course last year. Hopefully, Drivin' N Cryin' will play it one of these years.
I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm still writing songs. I'm still being honest. I think they're good songs. We're looking for a label for this amazing record we just made. We're all feeling really positive about things. We haven't had a record deal before we've cut the record in over 20 years. We make them all ourselves and find someone to distribute them. We're pretty proud that we can still make a great record for a few thousand dollars. I'll be playing a few of those new songs, as well as the older ones, at the Montgomery show.
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